Australian Open 2015: Future looks bright for Australian tennis as six home players advance in Melbourne

A round-up of the first day's action in Melbourne

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The Independent Online

Australia Day arrived a week early on Monday. Tennis here has been in the doldrums in recent years, but on the first day of the Australia Open there were a remarkable six home winners in the men’s singles.

Most pleasingly of all for home supporters, the three young men who offer great hope for the future of the game Down Under all reached the second round. Nick Kyrgios beat Argentina’s Federico Delbonis 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 and Bernard Tomic beat Germany’s Tobias Kamke 7-5, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2, but the best performance came from 18-year-old Thanasi Kokkinakis, who knocked out the world No 13, Ernests Gulbis, in a thrilling match under the lights on Court Three.

Kokkinakis, who won 5-7, 6-0, 1-6, 7-6, 8-6 after four hours, is the youngest and arguably best prospect among the men who are reviving this country’s passion for the sport. The world No 147, who took up Roger Federer’s invitation to train with him during the off-season, has a game to match his strapping 6ft 5in frame.

In claiming the best victory of his career he also showed great mental strength. Gulbis, who outgunned Kokkinakis with 29 aces and 72 winners (compared with his opponent’s 15 aces and 41 winners), had four match points at 5-6 in the fourth set and six break points in the fifth, but the Australian saved them all.

Kokkinakis, asked afterwards about his dazzling yellow, red and orange kit, said: “Nike were like: ‘We only give this to a few. If you’re up for it, wear it.’ I was like: ‘Whatever, I’ll do it.’ But in that outfit I was like: ‘I’ve just got to get the win’.”

 

He now faces another of yesterday’s home winners, Sam Groth, who hit the fastest serve ever recorded (163.4mph) at a Challenger tournament in South Korea three years ago. James Duckworth and Marinko Matosevic completed the line-up of winning Australian men.

Kyrgios, who beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last summer, has had fitness issues of late but, like three of his fellow countrymen, survived five sets to win. He next meets the big-serving Croat, Ivo Karlovic.

Nadal, who insists he is not a contender for the title following recent fitness problems, started in impressive fashion, crushing Mikhail Youzhny  6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Federer coasted to a 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 win over Lu Yen-hsun.

There was carnage in the bottom half of the women’s draw as eight of the section’s 16 seeds were beaten. Angelique Kerber, Lucie Safarova, Carla Suarez Navarro, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Sabine Lisicki and Belinda Bencic all fell, but the greatest shock was Ana Ivanovic’s  1-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat at the hands of Lucie Hradecka, the world No 142.

Ivanovic, the world  No 5, said: “I didn’t really feel like myself out there. It was really tough for me to find my rhythm.”

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